The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine regions the Krampus is represented by an incubus demon in company of Saint Nicholas. Krampus acts as an anti-Saint Nicholas where instead of giving gifts to good children, he gives warnings and punishments to the bad children. Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly in the evening of December 5, and roam the streets frightening children and women with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas the tradition also includes birching by the Krampus, especially of young females.
The present day Krampus costume consists of wooden masks or Larve, sheep's skin and horns. Considerable effort goes into the manufacture of the hand-crafted masks, as many younger adults in rural communities engage competitively in the Krampus events.
In Oberstdorf, in the southwestern alpine part of Bavaria, the tradition of der Wilde Mann ("the wild man") is kept alive. He is described exactly like Krampus (except the horns), dressed in fur and frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells. Der Wilde Mann however, is not an assistant of Saint Nicholas.